Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Personal Touch and a Bookstore's Dexterity

Scott D. Parker

Today, as I was yesterday, I am reveling in all the geeky goodness of Houston’s Comicpalooza, home of comics, artists, movies, video games, anime, and naturally that’s where you’d find Houston’s preeminent mystery bookstore, Murder by the Book.

I’ll admit that, when I saw their name on the dealer list, I was a tad puzzled. What’s a bookstore that primarily deals with mystery fiction doing at a place that primarily focuses on science fiction, fantasy, etc.? Well, they’re doing what they always do: find a way to fit in and adapt to this ever-changing marketplace of books. People start buying ebook? They sell ebooks.

Another example of how they stay above the fray is through author events. They host nearly an author a day in any given month. I think it’s safe to say that for most any mystery author on a book tour, Houston and Murder by the Book is a destination location. You simply must come here. It’s great to have that kind of store in my hometown.

And, as it turns out, McKenna and company played host to the one author I most wanted to see: Alan Dean Foster. He was my first favorite SF author back when I first learned what SF was. He wrote the very first new Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, back in 1978. Little did I know then that he also ghost wrote the novelization of Star Wars. Soon thereafter, I learned that he wrote the adaptations of the Star Trek animated series, listed as Star Trek Logs 1-10 to differentiate them from the James Blish adaptations of the original series. By the late 1970s, with the show off the air and decades away from a DVD, Foster’s books were the only way to experience these stories. The hunt for all ten logs became my first great treasure hunt. I found one in Boise, Idaho, another in Tyler, Texas, and places in between. They were a prized collection back then and remain so to this day.

When it came time to bring one of my logs (I didn’t want to bring all 10) to the con, I settled on Number 3. Not for any of the particular tales, mind you, but rather for the inscription my fourth-grade self inscribed on the front page. My elementary handwriting labeled this book as mine. And Mr. Foster has since put his inscription in this volume, too. He heard my story and wrote a nice addition: “For Scott--Movin’ on from the 4th Grade.”

It’s a personal touch that Foster did for me. I thanked him then and again thank him here. He also signed his book of nonfiction, Predators I Have Known, his recounting of his world travels to six of the seven continents over these past forty years. I look forward to reading it next.

The personal touch is what sets Murder by the Book apart as well. For me and all the patrons that walk into that store, it is literally the bookstore equivalent of the “Cheers” bar: they know your name, your likes, and are quick with a recommendation. Even yesterday, when I realized I missed Foster’s initial signing, McKenna texted me to let me know when he’d next be at the table. The personal touch. It makes all the difference. Thanks McKenna.

P.S., In case y’all outside of Houston missed it, here’s the piece our local CBS affiliate, KHOU, did on Murder by the Book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like an awesome store! I wish my small town had something like that. Congrats on meeting one of your favorite authors. Again, haha.